It Always Rains On Sunday
Directed by Robert Hamer
Written by Angus McPhail, Robert Hamer & Henry Cornelius
Produced by Michael Balcon
Starring: Googie Withers, Edward Chapman, Susan Shaw, Sydney Tafler, John Slater, John McCallum, Hermoine Baddeley & Jack Warner
Out 12th Nov

To coincide with the BFI’s theatrical re-release of this often ignored 1947 Ealing studio classic as part of their Ealing retrospective, Studiocanal have released a brand new special edition DVD and the first ever Blu-ray issue of It Always Rains On Sunday.

Over-shadowed by the more famous comic pictures produced at Ealing during the 1950s (The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers) the subversive It Always Rains On Sunday has steadily grown in stature as one of the earliest and best examples of British film noir. Based on the novel by Arthur La Bern (also the author of Frenzy, which Alfred Hitchcock filmed in dramatic style in London during the early 70s), the film is a gritty drama that unfolds on the rain-soaked streets of the London’s East End one ill-fated Sunday.

Directed by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets, Pink String & Sealing Wax), It Always Rains On Sunday stars Googie Withers in a soaring performance as Rose Sandigate, a bitter Bethnal Green housewife stuck in a loveless marriage to George (Edward Chapman), hemmed in on all sides by well-meaning but inquisitive neighbours and jealous of the burgeoning social life of her intelligent stepdaughter (Susan Shaw) who is tired of tedious drudgery.

 

Her lackluster world is turned upside down by the sudden re-appearance of an old pre-war flame, Tommy (played by Googie Withers’ eventual real-life husband John McCallum), on the run from the police having escaped from Dartmoor prison. Rose hides the desperate and ruthless Tommy in her bedroom all day as the house’s domestic routine continues around them, while police and journalists call at her door looking for him.

Around this central couple Hamer weaves a vivid, multi-layered tapestry of life in the still freshly bomb damaged post War East End – the busy markets, a Jewish immigrant family on the rise, seedy boarding-houses with their anonymous guests, the Saturday night dance halls full of expectant teenagers and a gang of sharply dress but inept spivs desperately trying to sell on their ill‐gotten gains (a lorry load of roller-skates). Obsessive detective Jack Warner (who would play a PC assassinated by a young Dirk Bogarde in Ealing’s 1950 The Blue Lamp, only to be resurrected for the long running TV show Dixon of Dock Green) is already on their case. The detail of the edge of poverty subsistence living (George baths in a tin tube in the kitchen), the family bickering born of confined living circumstances and the ultimately sad daydreams of escape; Hamer unflinchingly captures it all.

Angus McPhail, Robert Hamer & Henry Cornelius complex narrative structure, which encompasses much of the day to day existence during the first ‘austerity Britain’ years, can be seen to have inspired a wide range of directors, from Stanley Kubrick to Terence Davis. The film climaxes with an unforgettably dramatic chase sequence filmed in the railway yards of Stratford. Shot by the unparalleled Douglas Slocombe (who later worked with Joseph Losey), this phenomenal sequence rivals the fatalistic perfection of Fritz Lang at his best, or Jean Renoir, and remains one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed in the annals of British cinema.

A detailed and realistic glimpse into working class life in London’s East End after World War II (although much of the film was actually shot on the streets of Chalk Farm, North London), filled with grim gallows humour (“Nice weather for ducks and aspidistras,’ jokes a neighbour as Rose attempts to quickly sneak food to her fugitive lover in the family’s old WWII Anderson shelter), this was Googie Wither’s last film for Ealing Studios and, due to her wonderful performance as a woman trapped in a claustrophobic domesticity, it remains one of her best.
The DVD extras on this special edition include Coming in from the Rain: Revisiting It Always Rains on Sunday, a new and highly informed featurette over view of the picture, featuring interviews with director, author Iain Sinclair, film historian Ian Christie and producer Sean O’ Connor. Each interviewee reflects upon how the film has affected them as a viewer (Terence Davis says that the “hair stands up on the back of my neck” as he just recalls the picture’s railway yards finale), the influence it has upon their work and the history of It Always Rains On Sunday’s production.

A fine new locations featurette, presented by British film historian Richard Dacre, offers further background information (of course it is raining while Dacre compares and contrasts the locations from the picture with how they appear today) behind the scenes stills gallery and the original trailer rounds off this handsome package.

The DVD print looks spectacular, as it has been digitally remastered from two nitratfine grain positives, dating from 1947. It Always Rains On Sunday is Ealing’s most credible pessimistic film and is the equal of the Boulting Brothers classic adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, made the same year.

It Always Rains On Sunday is released on DVD & Blu-ray 12th November 2012.

All words by Ian Johnston. More Louder Than War articles by Ian can be read here.

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